Libby Phelps Alvarez, Former WBC Member: We Prayed ‘For People To Die’

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In March 2009, Libby Phelps Alvarez left the Westboro Baptist Church, saying goodbye to a life of picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and holding up controversial anti-gay signs.

Nearly four years later, the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, Sr., founder and pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, gave an emotional interview to NBC’s “Today Show,” in which she described the controlling life of hatred and intolerance that she’s left behind.

“They think that they are the only ones who are going to heaven and if you don’t go to that church you’re going to hell,” Alvarez told “Today,” explaining that the congregation was driven primarily by its homophobic views.

Phelps Alvarez says she recalls a particular moment when she began to feel she could no longer support the group’s efforts.

“There was a point when we started praying for people to die,” Phelps Alvarez said. “I didn’t actually do that but I was around when they did it.”

She’s talked about that behavior before. Soon after leaving the congregation, Phelps Alvarez gave a radio interview in which she recalled being forced to “pray for people to die.”

Written By: Nick Wing
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

26 COMMENTS

  1. More extreme, I think, for sure, than your average granny sitting in the pew but at the core the beliefs will be much the same, I’m afraid.

    In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

    How truly different are they from any group of religious folks?

  2. I had a man, who was dragging around his 10-year-old son with him, come to the door preaching his brand of faith. He opened the conversation with, “do you believe people are being led astray by the devil?” I replied, “You have the wrong house, I don’t believe in the devil, I’m an atheist.”

    That got it going. And one by one, I knocked them down. Ultimately, it ended with me telling his son not to believe stuff because he’s told to, he should accept arguments based on the evidence they are supported by, faith means nothing. I managed to add that he should always be willing to change his mind in light of better evidence and to not be afraid to say he doesn’t know something.

    His dad ended it there and asked if he could come back with more compelling evidence. I told him he could try but I doubted I would still be here in another 2000 years, as the last 2000 hasn’t produced any.

    Poor kid, watching his dad get shot down like that. Maybe he’ll think about what I said.

    One of the question that struck me was directed at being an atheist. The father asked when I became an atheist (he kept calling it a faith, I kept correcting him), I told him I have always been an atheist; we are all born atheists. You have to take the action of believing in a religion and becoming a follower; I never did. I think he was blown away.

  3. Sad. I know.

    In reply to #3 by HenMie:

    More extreme, I think, for sure, than your average granny sitting in the pew but at the core the beliefs will be much the same, I’m afraid.

    In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

    How truly different are they from any group of religious folks?

  4. In reply to #5 by aquilacane:

    I had a man, who was dragging around his 10-year-old son with him, come to the door preaching his brand of faith.

    One sunny summer day a friend of mine had doorknockers of that kind. A couple, with their young child – maybe 7 or 8 – in tow. Before they could launch their spiel, my friend denounced them as child abusers and ordered them to take that poor kid to the beach, Right Now, instead of wasting her childhood on their door-to-door nonsense. Parting shot “and buy her an ice-cream on the way”.

  5. I recently answered the door to a pair of 60 something women who were preaching. I figured that they were put up to it by someone “above them” in their perceived hierarchy. So I was polite. They asked if I would like to hear “the good news” and I replied that “I’d love to give you 15 minutes of my day to tell me about your good news, BUT in return I want 15 minutes of your time to tell you why you are wrong.” They respectfully declined.

    In reply to #5 by aquilacane:

    I had a man, who was dragging around his 10-year-old son with him, come to the door preaching his brand of faith. He opened the conversation with, “do you believe people are being led astray by the devil?” I replied, “You have the wrong house, I don’t believe in the devil, I’m an atheist.”

    That got it going. And one by one, I knocked them down. Ultimately, it ended with me telling his son not to believe stuff because he’s told to, he should accept arguments based on the evidence they are supported by, faith means nothing. I managed to add that he should always be willing to change his mind in light of better evidence and to not be afraid to say he doesn’t know something.

    His dad ended it there and asked if he could come back with more compelling evidence. I told him he could try but I doubted I would still be here in another 2000 years, as the last 2000 hasn’t produced any.

    Poor kid, watching his dad get shot down like that. Maybe he’ll think about what I said.

    One of the question that struck me was directed at being an atheist. The father asked when I became an atheist (he kept calling it a faith, I kept correcting him), I told him I have always been an atheist; we are all born atheists. You have to take the action of believing in a religion and becoming a follower; I never did. I think he was blown away.

  6. In reply to #1 by hellosnackbar:

    The Westboro baptist church is the ultimate Christian centre of nauseating bigotry.
    They compete strongly with Salafist Mulims for the title of champion religious shits.

    Nah, they’re amateurs! When they begin lopping off limbs for theft, and heads for being Catholic, then they just might become competitive.

  7. Devices such as the one on which I’m scribbling this little bijou notette are permitting isolated individuals such as this to discover the richness of their world; the internet is come to pass.

  8. In reply to no one in particular

    I don’t wish to prick anyone’s smug little bubble of superiority, but I do grow weary of reading posts on this site which typically give a one-sided account of an encounter with a theist in which, after a battle of wits, this fellow is sent away with a red face and a flea in his ear, and the atheist shakes his head wisely, relights his pipe, and returns to the warm glow of his computer screen to record for posterity how he once again got the better of a dimwit who was foolish enough to knock on this particular front door. The addition of a wide-eyed ingénue to the narrative who will be disabused of her guardian’s foolish beliefs and whose encounter with this sagacious yet kindly stranger will set her on the path to scientific knowledge and an inevitable Nobel Prize is a particularly cheesy touch.

    Or perhaps all these stories are true and I’ve just never got into an argument about religion with a believer which didn’t end with me spending the night as a guest of Her Majesty or some other authority, or in the emergency room.

    Not really. See, that was a lie too. I’m not that brave. I tend to do what I think most people do when those intent on spreading their silliness ring the doorbell: I say I’m not really interested, wish them a pleasant day, close the door, and then spend the next couple of hours kicking myself about all the clever things I should have said.

    L’esprit de l’escalier

  9. For me the WBC reminds me of the famous Milgram experiment, to the extent that otherwise good people can be duped into doing unconscionable things because an authority figure tells them to.
    It’s scary that simply being in the presence of Fred or Shirley Phelps is enough to make these folks think that being balls to the wall homophobes, picketing other people’s private funerals, sueing local authorities and willing people to die and go to hell all constitute moral actions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
    Re. doorstep prozelytizers, I had one buzz my intercom one morning, with the words “We’re just in the neighbourhood going door to door and we’re just asking people like yourself, ‘what do you think happens when you die?’”
    My answer: “You rot. Goodbye”.

  10. In reply to #4 by aquilacane:

    I would think most religious people, who truly believe, are just too lazy to be “good” religious people. Good according to their book, that is.

    I think it relieves them of any actual responsibility to be good. As long as they turn up to their place of worship at the allocated time, give money whenever it’s demanded from them, wear the appropriate clothing or tacky metal trinkets, and adhere to the myriad other little rituals of their faith, they have carte blanche to behave exactly as they wish.

    Rather than providing a template for how to behave, religion can furnish a means whereby one is able to behave as despicably as one wishes, secure in the knowledge that a ticket to paradise is guaranteed.

    It’s a bit like being the child of the headmaster. You can be pushing some poor kid’s face into the dirt, or, as I understand is the tradition in Mormon teaching establishments, cutting off his hair because you’ve judged him too effeminate, and when someone tells you to stop it lest you get in trouble, your response is that that just isn’t possible. It’s not that this bully thinks his father would approve or disapprove of these actions; the fact that the relationship exists is enough to instil confidence.

    It’s long been a mystery to me how those who are most effusive in their admiration for Jesus, his pop and the twin who didn’t survive (I’m not that familiar with the Bible; I think that’s who the Holy Ghost is) seem to be the ones who are the most illiberal, and whose behaviour least resembles that of the Jesus of popular myth. The modern American Christian would probably vilify anyone who turned up out of the blue and began healing lepers and curing blindness, and spit that he was a filthy socialist, particularly if he didn’t demand payment.

    And they’d be right. I don’t mean about his being filthy; I have no reason to suspect that the King of kings’ personal hygeine was ever anything less than impeccable. But Jesus does seem to have been a bit of a lefty. Sort of a Bible-times Che Guevara.

    So how did he become the property of the fag bashers, abortion clinic bombers, gun nuts, Ann Coulter – Ann fu@#ing Coulter?! – and the rest of Fox News? How did this guerrilla who rebelled against the Roman occupation of his land come to be expropriated by the Roman Catholic Church, the organisation which grew out of the one which nailed him to a crucifix and then spent the next two thousand years blaming his own people for it?

    I feel a bit bad for old Jesus. He seems to have been a good enough egg. Two thousand years of atrocity committed in his name are not his fault. I think it’s high time atheists reclaimed this humanist, this leftist agitator, this freedom fighter, from those who stand foursquare against what he stood for.

    “Atheists for Jesus”. I think it has a nice ring to it. Who’s with me?

  11. The scary thing about Westboro is that it is perfect confirmation of the adage that it takes religion to make good people do bad things.
    Those that have escaped from the cult are revealed to be perfectly normal, sensitive, well educated individuals who went along with the activities because of group psychology and fear of being cut adrift from their community.
    I particularly felt for Fred Phelp’s son who lost his entire family when he left and had to rebuild his life completely.
    Hard though it is to accept, I have come to the conclusion that most of the members of that cult can be classed as victims under the thrall of the patriarchal Phelps. I’m willing to bet that when he passes away ( and he’s quite old) the whole thing will come down like deck of cards.

  12. What (I think) needs to be mentioned here is that I have never never never answered the door and been confronted by an atheist. The offense I take is to the preaching and the fact that they SMUGLY see it as their duty to spread their “good news”.

    I also talk back to the fools who spend their day handing out little cartoon pamphlets at the mall. If your belief system can be reduced to a cartoon, then perhaps you should self examine a bit.

    I am not in a smug little bubble of superiority. If I were, I’D BE KNOCKING ON THEIR DOORS.

    If you are gonna call it to task, call it accurately.

    In reply to #11 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to no one in particular

    I don’t wish to prick anyone’s smug little bubble of superiority, but I do grow weary of reading posts on this site which typically give a one-sided account of an encounter with a theist in which, after a battle of wits, this fellow is sent away with a red face and a flea in his ear, and the atheist shakes his head wisely, relights his pipe, and returns to the warm glow of his computer screen to record for posterity how he once again got the better of a dimwit who was foolish enough to knock on this particular front door. The addition of a wide-eyed ingénue to the narrative who will be disabused of her guardian’s foolish beliefs and whose encounter with this sagacious yet kindly stranger will set her on the path to scientific knowledge and an inevitable Nobel Prize is a particularly cheesy touch.

    Or perhaps all these stories are true and I’ve just never got into an argument about religion with a believer which didn’t end with me spending the night as a guest of Her Majesty or some other authority, or in the emergency room.

    Not really. See, that was a lie too. I’m not that brave. I tend to do what I think most people do when those intent on spreading their silliness ring the doorbell: I say I’m not really interested, wish them a pleasant day, close the door, and then spend the next couple of hours kicking myself about all the clever things I should have said.

    L’esprit de l’escalier

  13. BTW I am totally with you on this point…well said.

    In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #4 by aquilacane:

    I would think most religious people, who truly believe, are just too lazy to be “good” religious people. Good according to their book, that is.

    I think it relieves them of any actual responsibility to be good. As long as they turn up to their place of worship at the allocated time, give money whenever it’s demanded from them, wear the appropriate clothing or tacky metal trinkets, and adhere to the myriad other little rituals of their faith, they have carte blanche to behave exactly as they wish.

    Rather than providing a template for how to behave, religion can furnish a means whereby one is able to behave as despicably as one wishes, secure in the knowledge that a ticket to paradise is guaranteed.

    It’s a bit like being the child of the headmaster. You can be pushing some poor kid’s face into the dirt, or, as I understand is the tradition in Mormon teaching establishments, cutting off his hair because you’ve judged him too effeminate, and when someone tells you to stop it lest you get in trouble, your response is that that just isn’t possible. It’s not that this bully thinks his father would approve or disapprove of these actions; the fact that the relationship exists is enough to instil confidence.

    It’s long been a mystery to me how those who are most effusive in their admiration for Jesus, his pop and the twin who didn’t survive (I’m not that familiar with the Bible; I think that’s who the Holy Ghost is) seem to be the ones who are the most illiberal, and whose behaviour least resembles that of the Jesus of popular myth. The modern American Christian would probably vilify anyone who turned up out of the blue and began healing lepers and curing blindness, and spit that he was a filthy socialist, particularly if he didn’t demand payment.

    And they’d be right. I don’t mean about his being filthy; I have no reason to suspect that the King of kings’ personal hygeine was ever anything less than impeccable. But Jesus does seem to have been a bit of a lefty. Sort of a Bible-times Che Guevara.

    So how did he become the property of the fag bashers, abortion clinic bombers, gun nuts, Ann Coulter – Ann fu@#ing Coulter?! – and the rest of Fox News? How did this guerrilla who rebelled against the Roman occupation of his land come to be expropriated by the Roman Catholic Church, the organisation which grew out of the one which nailed him to a crucifix and then spent the next two thousand years blaming his own people for it?

    I feel a bit bad for old Jesus. He seems to have been a good enough egg. Two thousand years of atrocity committed in his name are not his fault. I think it’s high time atheists reclaimed this humanist, this leftist agitator, this freedom fighter, from those who stand foursquare against what he stood for.

    “Atheists for Jesus”. I think it has a nice ring to it. Who’s with me?

  14. In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

    How truly different are they from any group of religious folks?

    You have got to be kidding me.

    Yes, my mother, my grandmother or my aunt who enjoy going to church on Sundays, are TOTALLY different from these psychopaths. Night and day. Millions of light years away. We’re talking about intergalactic distances here. Surprise, there are many shades of gray between “brilliant awesome atheist” and “nutjob homicidal misantrhope faithhead”.

    Tyranny of the discontinuous mind much?

  15. Do they contribute money into the coffers of the church? Does that money allow the church to “extend” it’s reach? Do they condemn the church for it’s wrongdoing? Do they speak out against the church when it is clearly wrong? Do they march against abortion? Do they vote according to what their church dictates to them? Do they excuse rape of children with a silent and blind attitude?

    Your mother, grandmother etc…my wife, inlaws, parents..etc…. may be on the surface benign, but they believe irrationality and support it. It is dangerous and needs to be pointed out and criticized.

    Your mother and grand mother (and my wife etc…) ALLOW the WBC to exist. They are the enablers that open the door for the abusers. So, I stick to my statement. No discontinuity. FACTS.

    Evil always thinks it is doing good.

    In reply to #17 by JoxerTheMighty:

    In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:

    How truly different are they from any group of religious folks?

    You have got to be kidding me.

    Yes, my mother, my grandmother or my aunt who enjoy going to church on Sundays, are TOTALLY different from these psychopaths. Night and day. Millions of light years away. We’re talking about intergalactic distances here. Surprise, there are many shades of gray between “brilliant awesome atheist” and “nutjob homicidal misantrhope faithhead”.

    Tyranny of the discontinuous mind much?

  16. ===Do they contribute money into the coffers of the church?
    Yep. Well, sometimes.

    ==== Do they condemn the church for it’s wrongdoing? Do they speak out against the church when it is clearly

    Yep. Several, several times. Complete with calling priests and high-priests names I’d rather refrain from posting here.

    ====Do they march against abortion?
    Nope. Mostly, they do one-day trips and visit monasteries.

    ====Do they vote according to what their church dictates to them?
    Nope. We’re kind of a leftist family anyway.

    ====Do they excuse rape of children with a silent and blind attitude?
    Again, you have got to be kidding me. Hell no.

  17. In reply to #15 by crookedshoes:

    What (I think) needs to be mentioned here is that I have never never never answered the door and been confronted by an atheist.

    Where do you live man, Vatican City?

    In reply to #19 by bluebird:

    “Atheists for Jesus”. I think it has a nice ring to it. Who’s with me?

    Richard Dawkins!

    Oh my goshness, and I thought I was being original! I’m a bit busy at the moment, but I’ll try and respond as soon as I’m able. That tee-shirt is fabulous, I want one, and Richard is looking drop-dead sexy in it, although it’s a bit long on him.

  18. Well, anyway she can take comfort knowing that prayers don’t make people die. If they did, I’m sure we’d be trying to figure out why so many Catholic priests drop dead from no apparent causes.

  19. In reply to #11 by Katy Cordeth:

    Well, yes, you’re quite right about the gloating.

    Door-to-door salesfolk of all stripes are the butt of so many jokes, probably because the comic potential is so great: an encounter between people who would not otherwise meet, one with an agenda (sell something), the other involuntarily interrupted at a random moment.

    So, tales of doorstep encounters can be entertaining. Here’s another two:

    The best ever doorstep response I witnessed was by my one-time flatmate, and fellow band member. We’d got back about 0530 after a late gig. At about 0930 there came the proselytizing knock on the door. Not a timid ignorable knock either, an insistent demand for attention. Flatmate reached the door ahead of me. Opened. Stared. Slammed.

    At the same address I later had a much nicer encounter. We were moving out, and the doorknocker – a young man – kindly did his share, taking the other end of beds and sofas and carrying at least his share of boxes. When we were loaded we bade him farewell. He was pleasant. I’ve no idea what he was trying to say, he kept getting interrupted with directions on what to carry and where to put it.

    I suppose the proseletyzing religions use the field experience to toughen up their members, get them used to all kinds of negative reaction, help them build thicker shells to isolate them from the evils of the world outside their bubble, make them more impervious to contrary views, and maybe – just maybe – enlist some new recruits.

    In which case it would seem unwise to engage with them in any way, except that – if you are willing to spend the time – you can delay them for a while, thus possibly sparing some other more vulnerable or impressionable victim.

  20. Sorry Katy, I’m with the others, I have encountered a pair of JW at the garage door, shut it, ignored them and they came back with a child to help crack the lock. I focused my responses on the adult but finished advising the child to beware of anything they told her that they couldn’t back up. My final statement was about atheism which seemed to shut him down as he was looking for a mystic.

    Not sure I could have been politer, I can swear good too, but I have trouble seeing the young abused so I answered his questions cleverly and articulately as I do to any adult, deluded or not, in any conversation. More of these true stories please.

    But then I also mocked a local doctor yesterday for his inablilty to park in an empty car park (mine) but he knew I meant he was a stupid selfish ass. The fact that you’re not bored or disbelieving of this story is probably because this isn’t a car park (parkade) web site, not because we’re all liars. Just think about the numbers of doors that are knocked on before you cast aspertions.

    I also have a horrify knock knock story too but I won’t share.

    In reply to #11 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to no one in particular

    I don’t wish to prick anyone’s smug little bubble of superiority, but I do grow weary of reading posts on this site which typically give a one-sided account of an encounter with a theist in which, after a battle of wits, this fellow is sent away with a red face and a flea in his ear, and the atheist shakes his head wisely, relights his pipe, and returns to the warm glow of his computer screen to record for posterity how he once again got the better of a dimwit who was foolish enough to knock on this particular front door. The addition of a wide-eyed ingénue to the narrative who will be disabused of her guardian’s foolish beliefs and whose encounter with this sagacious yet kindly stranger will set her on the path to scientific knowledge and an inevitable Nobel Prize is a particularly cheesy touch.

    Or perhaps all these stories are true and I’ve just never got into an argument about religion with a believer which didn’t end with me spending the night as a guest of Her Majesty or some other authority, or in the emergency room.

    Not really. See, that was a lie too. I’m not that brave. I tend to do what I think most people do when those intent on spreading their silliness ring the doorbell: I say I’m not really interested, wish them a pleasant day, close the door, and then spend the next couple of hours kicking myself about all the clever things I should have said.

    L’esprit de l’escalier

  21. I love the stories of witty reponses to unwanted religious, or other sales-type, solicitations at ones home. My grandfather had a particularly pointed manner to deal with these interruptions. If he had the time he would invite such people in, get them seated and allow them to give their pitch. After a time, when he’d had enough, he’d politely interrupt and ask whether the visitor had noticed the door on their way in. In evitably the reponse was “yes”, upon which the old boy would say, “good, then you’ll have no trouble finding your way out. Good bye!”

    Apparently this routine would drive my grandmother nuts!

  22. In reply to #17 by JoxerTheMighty:

    In reply to #2 by crookedshoes:How truly different are they from any group of religious folks?You have got to be kidding me.Yes, my mother, my grandmother or my aunt who enjoy going to church on Sundays, are TOTALLY different from these psychopaths. Night and day. Millions of light years away. We’re talking about intergalactic distances here. Surprise, there are many shades of gray between “brilliant awesome atheist” and “nutjob homicidal misantrhope faithhead”.Tyranny of the discontinuous mind much?

    To be honest the vast majority of the religious people I know are also millions of light years away from this bunch as well! There are indeed millions of shades of gray when it comes to religion – all religions – Westboro is at an extreme end of a very long continuum. Just like the continuums you’d find here.

    So if you look you might find a religious continuum that runs from the people I’d be more inclined to categorise as vaguely optismistic agnostics with insurance through to the ones who go to church every Sunday and are fairly devout but aren’t homicidal nutjobs thru to Westboro. Within the majority I know I’d say it’d be rare if not impossible to find uncritical, unquestioning support for priests, popes, bishops or vicars, rare to find any real homophobes under 45, impossible to find anyone that would dream of marching on abortion clinics and hard to find any that are totally anti anyway and not a single one that would condone child abuse. Yes there are a minority who would start to tend towards a smidgeon of the Westboro ideals but they tend to be the much older ones.

    So very much tyranny of the discontinous mind. Or maybe it is hugely different in the US.

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